Michigan 73, Louisville 69

Submitted by Ace on March 19th, 2017 at 3:57 PM

A sweet victory, indeed. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

As John Beilein delivered his opening statement of the postgame presser, Derrick Walton looked up to the ceiling and mouthed "oh my god."

Michigan won their second instant classic in as many games. Perhaps most remarkable is they went about it in an entirely different way. After making 16 three-pointers against Oklahoma State, the Wolverines were forced by Louisville's aggressive, switching defense to play through their big men. With Derrick Walton struggling to hit his shots, Moe Wagner and DJ Wilson stole the show.

Wagner scored a game-high 26 points on 11-for-14 shooting. In arguably the best performance of his young career, the big man used a dizzying array of post moves to punish mismatches. His biggest bucket of the game came on a move Beilein has wanted to see from him for a long time; off a pick-and-pop, Wagner got his defender to bite on a pump fake at the three-point line, then drove for a layup to give Michigan a six-point lead with 1:18 to go.

"We feed off of him," Walton said. "Because he's not afraid of anything."

Wilson's all-around impact nearly matched that of his German roommate. The last of his 17 points came in the final 20 seconds at the free-throw line, where his perfect four-for-four shooting kept the Cardinals at bay. His third block of the game ended the contest, as Walton plucked Donovan Mitchell's tipped shot out of the air and triumphantly raced into the frontcourt as the clock expired.

"Our play is kinda contagious on the floor," said Wilson. "I feed off his energy and he feeds off mine. Down the stretch when we pulled out the victory, I was as happy as I could possibly be."

Moe Wagner's best game couldn't have come at a better time. [Campredon]

Louisville led for nearly the entire first half. While neither team shot the ball well, ten UL offensive rebounds kept them out in front, and some creative officiating helped them go on an 8-0 run to close the half after Michigan had finally managed to tie it up. At the break, the outlook was bleak.

"The end of the first half I thought was a defining moment for our team," said Beilein. "A team that's not as experienced or doesn't have the poise that we had, they come back and try to win it all right away, but we won every four-minute period until we got ahead in the game."

That meant weathering a tough stretch at the beginning of the second half. Louisville center Mangok Mathiang matched Wagner bucket-for-bucket, and his putback off a missed three-pointer extended the lead to nine with 14:46 left. Then Michigan's offense really got rolling. Three straight baskets by Zak Irvin cut the deficit to three, and a short time later Wilson nailed a pick-and-pop three to get the Wolverines within one.

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman knotted the game at 51 with 8:54 to play, hitting two free-throws after taking a hard foul at the rim. While the teams would trade blows, Michigan never trailed again. Wilson worked his way into the paint to give them the lead. The perimeter finally opened up a bit; Wagner knocked down a triple out of a timeout, then Walton followed suit with a signature stepback, looking as if he had no recollection of going 1-for-11 up to that point.

Derrick Walton came up huge when his team needed it most. [Campredon]

Wagner's pump-fake layup looked like it would ice the game, especially when Jaylon Johnson committed an offensive foul on the following possession, but Louisville wasn't done. Irvin coughed up back-to-back turnovers on inbounds as UL turned up the pressure, and a layup by Mitchell, who led the Cardinals with 19 points, cut the deficit to two as hearts jumped into throats and stomachs churned.

That was Walton's cue. Michigan's unflappable leader hadn't made a shot at the rim all afternoon, but when he got a step on his defender, he didn't hesitate to go up strong over Deng Adel for a layup.

Mitchell would get two more layups, but each one was answered by Wilson free throws. Wilson and Wagner embraced after the game-sealing block to send Michigan to the Sweet Sixteen.

"We're very close," said Wagner. "It's beautiful seeing each other be successful."

It sure is.



March 19th, 2017 at 4:01 PM ^

Hey UMChick77, did you take all of our advice, say "Fuck It", and get a ticket to the game despite the on-line prices?

Hope so.  It was clearly worth it.


March 20th, 2017 at 11:15 AM ^

I don't know if UMChick took everyone's advice, but I did.  Bought my tickets on Saturday night and woke my soon to be 8 year old son up at 5am for his first Michigan basketball game.

We drove to Indy and had a blast.  To watch that game in the stadium was a great experience for him and he's hooked.  He already asked to go next year!  Throw in the fact that we got to see the WSU vs. UK game and get home for dinner it was definitely worth the experience.


March 19th, 2017 at 4:05 PM ^

Thanks Ace, great job.

Lost in all the DJ/Wagner praise was Irvin's contribution. His scoring burst got us back in the game.

Total team effort. So damn proud of this team!


March 19th, 2017 at 4:08 PM ^

What a ride. This game is about the 20th most important thing going on for me today, but in the slow moments it's an absolute blast. Winning a different way every game.


March 19th, 2017 at 4:38 PM ^

Can't elaborate on everything, and some things (like a rather sick kid my wife had to stay home with) are less serious than others, but within the last hour I have had phone conversations with a churchmember and friend whose baby was born today and went to NICU after a difficult labor, and another person in the church who is heading over to a friend's house because the friend is contemplating suicide. 

Among other things. It's part of my calling, and I wouldn't trade it for anything, but it does put this afternoon in perspective.

Billy Seamonster

March 19th, 2017 at 4:10 PM ^

I kept telling myself "we are playing with house money" when we were down early, but seesh this team has a lot going for them. Special group of kids that people really doubted (with cause) earlier this season.


March 19th, 2017 at 5:19 PM ^

Now I think we might be playing with house money, but I really wanted this game.  To lose in the opening weekend, after the huge turnaround we'd made, would have left us with a lot of regrets (and probably cursing Hollis for that seeding).  And we just couldn't lose again to Pitino.

Now, whatever happens, I think we can be pretty happy with this season.  Of course, I'm now getting greedy and thinking about the Final Four...



March 19th, 2017 at 9:45 PM ^

Yes.  But losing in that opening weekend when you have a good team is still a buzzkill.  2012 was a very good season but that Ohio loss stung (though it had the great silver lining of LeVert coming here).

It was clear after last week that we had the team to make a run.  If we'd lost Friday or today, we'd have a few regrets.



March 19th, 2017 at 4:12 PM ^

Throughought all of this great stretch I still always thought this team had a ceiling. After watching them fight through adversity and officiating today I don't see any reason why they can't beat everybody.


March 19th, 2017 at 4:22 PM ^

very good basketball teams. Playing offense against Louisville is like playing offense with somebody Velcro-ed to your face. Glad that one is behind us. Congrats to the team and GO BLUE.


March 19th, 2017 at 4:32 PM ^

Walton shot horribly, the officiating was against us in the first half, we didn't shoot well from 3 and STILL WON. 

Can't believe this is real life but this team has a legitimate shot at a final 4. 


March 19th, 2017 at 8:08 PM ^

Has anyone complained since Minnesota?  I mean all fanbases complain every game, but in a meaningful sense.  Terrible calls gifted Louisville 4 points at the half, turning a close game to near double digits.  It mattered and it's OK to say so. 


March 19th, 2017 at 4:22 PM ^

Beilien saying "How about that?" twice just after the buzzer? He was walking to shake hands. It was very cool to see. He just seemed completely at ease and enjoying the moment.

Stringer Bell

March 19th, 2017 at 4:23 PM ^

Impressive all around.  Especially Beilein and his 2nd half adjustments.  Pitino, widely regarded as one of the game's best defensive tacticians, had no answer for our offense in the 2nd half.  It was beautiful to watch.  


I thought these were our 2 toughest matchups this bracket.  A final four run is very much in reach.


March 19th, 2017 at 4:35 PM ^

This one scared me - Louisville is so physical, and plays really good defense. 

Pitino is a scumbag, but he knows basketball. It took a great team effort and some terrific coaching to beat those guys.


March 19th, 2017 at 4:38 PM ^

comments on the preview post about Louisville not posting up.  I was wrong and didn't realize how good their bigs were inside.  I thought they were just jumpy blocky types that cleaned the boards but they had some post moves.  

After the first half I thought we might have needed to start doubling, but the adjustment was to move DJ onto Mango and Louisville didn't seem to attack Wagner with Johnson.  Wagner also stepped up his defense and blocking out the second half.  Just a great, great half of basketball by all five starters.


March 19th, 2017 at 4:44 PM ^

the first half I was positive we needed to double and the first four minutes of the 2nd only convinced me more, but then we started to help on time. Just in the nick of time. I guess that is why John Beilein is a 20 year D-1 basketball coach and I am just some internet dude. But Louisville was much more skilled down low than even I thought as well.


March 19th, 2017 at 10:17 PM ^

Nantz, et al opened the game recounting Pitino's effusive praise for Coach B. It was laughed off as "Coach-speak", but after the game he both praised his team's effort, and basically flat out said they don't have the hoops smarts to outwit a Beilein offense when well executed.

Mental mistakes he called them, offering that he'd told his players to always cut off the Michigan right side, and force M to always dribble or pass left. But a couple ball fake pick & rolls and a couple made 3s and it all fell apart.

I thought the praise was genuine, and I also appreciated the free advice on how other teams will look to stop our offense. 



March 19th, 2017 at 4:26 PM ^

and some creative officiating helped them go on an 8-0 run

Yeah, that was creative officiating in the same way that the Ides of March was some creative knifework.  Total team effort, though - Wilson and Wagner led the way, but Walton remained unflappable on a day when his shot was off.  Irvin and MAAR chipped in with timely points when we needed them the most and even Evil Goatee Donnal got in the act with a trey and a fierce block